The Outsider colors outside the lines
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From intuitive adventure to strong strategy
Hendrik Vandermarliere (55) has always been an adventurous "wild man". As a child he loved nothing more than romping around with his friends from the KSA. As a student, he chose a sports training in 't Sportkot in Leuven and he was also an officer with the paratroopers.
'In between', intuitively and seemingly by accident, he founded The Outsider, a multi-faceted company that offers sporting, relaxing and adventurous outdoor activities, operates catering outlets and employs some 40 permanent staff in various locations.
The higher purpose of everything Hendrik undertakes? "To give people a nice, carefree day that they will remember for a long time."
From cave to raft and beyond
"It started during my studies, about 31 years ago," Hendrik recalls. "I was organizing an outdoor event and chose a speleo initiative. At the time, this was not yet very well known; you only had the Caves of Han. The event was a success, participants wanted to do the same with their scout group or soccer team and before I knew it I was coaching several groups. This is how the idea of starting a company came about. My father declared me crazy and said that people wouldn't call me to crawl around in a cave for a whole day. But ... he did give me his blessing. And so I got to work."
Hendrik started The Outsider with some friends. "We bought a small school in Comblain-au-Pont, at the confluence of the Ourthe and Amblève rivers, and transformed it into a small hotel with seven rooms and four dormitories. In addition to caving, we also offered kayak, mountain bike and rafting trips. We kept expanding our activities. We quickly grew. My partner left the business and Steven Van Erps joined the company. We still focused on schools, but also increasingly on young people, groups of friends, families, individuals and companies."
On adventure in the Flemings
After ten years of Ardennes adventures, Geert Uytterhoeven and Annick Claeys, both sports monitors in the Ardennes, together with Hendrik, decided to expand the activities to Flanders. "Until then, it was unthinkable to 'adventure' in Flanders. We found a barge in Nieuwpoort that could serve as a home base. Thus was born the subsidiary company The Outsider Coast."
Another ten years later, Hendrik dropped his gaze on a location in Oudenaarde. "A beautiful estate in a natural flood area of the Scheldt, with many marshes. We drew up a master plan and received the approval of the town to create an adventure area with a swamp course, barefoot path, climbing tower, climbing gym, catering facilities and a party room. Later the cable park followed, where you can do water skiing and wakeboarding. At the moment we are also building an adventure domain next to the new sports hall in Aalst, near the Dender, a beautiful river that you can sail down to Wallonia."
Today, the various branches are run by the following pioneers: The Outsider Ardennes by Steven Van Erps, The Outsider Coast by Geert Uyterhoeven, The Outsider Flemish Ardennes by Hendrik Vandermarliere.
By air, water and land: a carefree experience
You already understood: The Outsider is a jack of many trades and also bathes several catering establishments and lodgings in Flemish and Walloon locations. "We also deploy the Outsider team as an event and travel agency for natural trips and team builds. Want to trek through Norway on a dog sled or climb Mont Blanc? The Outsider will arrange it. We're also not tied to our own locations for team events. We work out a tailor-made idea with a smile."
"Make no mistake, The Outsider is not just for adventurers. We offer activities for young and old, sporty and not so sporty. We want ANYONE to have a carefree day. Our monitors are educated and like to share their knowledge, that educational touch during the activities is an important value of The Outsider. During kayaking, for example, we explain the different techniques. The Outsider also offers a completely adapted package for less mobile people and people with disabilities. They can use our sit-ski and funtubes, small inflatable seats that are pulled over the water. Our 'coast monitors' also accompany people with disabilities on ski trips."
Hendrik loves nature and has been strongly committed to nature and the environment from the beginning. "We take care not to harm nature and do sensitization. During all activities we consciously make the link with nature. At The Outsider, children are still allowed to really play, get dirty and push their limits. At the same time, they get to experience nature. The Outsider is involved in nature management. This year, for example, we planted 120 trees on the Oudenaarde domain. The whole team pays attention to sustainability and ecology, with water-saving measures, solar boilers and solar panels, among other things."
At the Titecas, youth sins and business
The Vandermarliere and Titeca families share a long history. "Vincent and Miguel were in my class at the Klein Seminarie in Roeselare. I often came to their house and they to ours. Our parents also knew each other well.
So before I founded The Outsider, I went to talk to Henri Titeca. He guided me in the start-up of a cooperative. Titeca has been taking care of my bookkeeping since day one. We go way back!
We also sought advice from Titeca for each expansion and the development of our subsidiaries. Emmanuel Titeca helped us enormously on a strategic level and helped build The Outsider from day one up to its current structure. A win-win relationship, no doubt about it.
"Also, our file manager at Titeca, Els Decru, is much more than an accountant to us. She follows us from day two. She knows the ins and outs of The Outsider and knows what the sensitivities are. For example, she advised us to join forces and do things like marketing, communications and the security policy together. That makes the collaboration very strong. Our internal bookkeeper and the Titeca customer managers Damienne, Laura and Stephanie, ensure that the figures run smoothly.
We also experience Titeca's legal specialists as an enormous added value. We already organized Titeca's team events on several occasions, a nice cross-pollination."